S J Birkill
just a sensible reserve
« : 28.05.18 at 03:20 »
Apologies for our absence over the weekend. The EU's General Data Protection Regulation came into force on May 25th, and prompted me to make a few changes to the way the MV Forum handles user data.
The GDPR is a complex piece of legislation, aimed primarily at those large Internet corporations whose business it is to amass millions of users on the irresistible promise of free (and very attractive) online services, while harvesting their users' private details and personal preferences for financial gain, principally by selling the data they collect to advertisers. Think Facebook.
However its provisions are so worded that they impact almost anyone with an online presence -- not just commercial and marketing organisations who track your purchasing decisions (think Amazon), the better (or so they believe) to target you with advertising (which, if you're like me, you totally ignore or even block); but also even the lowliest of music fan discussion groups, often with as few as 25 active members, run by a lone individual with no ability or desire to make so much as a penny from the service he or she provides (think Midnight Voices).
At this stage, opinions differ on the scope of the GDPR legislation as it affects operations like ours -- even the crucial concept of processing of user data is not well defined; it may need to be tested in the courts before we know how exposed we are. But certainly we would never have the necessary resources, for instance to appoint a Data Protection Officer, or to ensure all the user data we hold is securely encrypted on our servers. Yes, we could migrate MV to some cloud-based system which might prove to be verifiably compliant, but on the way we'd lose much of the functionality we've built into our forum, and I suspect we would in practice be more open to malicious breaches of security than we are at present.
And even if that looked like the best way, would we (would I) commit the necessary time, effort and heartache into such a move, when the active user base is so small? We have 617 members on the books, but regular logins have fallen to around 20 individuals in recent months, and the old lengthy and sometimes heated discussions are long gone: most of our posts simply provide information of forthcoming gigs.
One option was (and still is) to close down MV as a forum; to abolish membership as such; to retain the old message base as an archive (with personal details removed of course to satisfy the privacy laws), and to post only news items. But there are alternative and arguably better conduits for news: Pete's Website, 'Smash Flops'; Pete's own e-mail newsletter, and of course Rob Spence's Facebook group. Removing the forum functionality would surely upset the remaining faithful, and would deprive everyone of the members-only extras in such areas as the Website's music player and the text archives.
So I've decided to continue MV more or less as is for the time being (i.e. until someone tells me to stop), but with a few changes intended to comply where possible with the spirit, if not the interpreted letter, of GDPR. These changes are principally in the areas of transparency, in setting out the very limited extent of our stored user data and clarifying the ways every user has to delete all or part of his or her data, or to opt out completely.
In brief, the 'Required' information we request of you on signing up is limited (and always was) to a username and a verifiable e-mail address. The e-mail address is used for validation and for optional notifications, and remains confidential unless you choose to display it. By default it is hidden. When you post to the Forum, we store your computer's IP address at the time as part of our spam-protection measures, but this is visible only to the Administrator.
'Optional' data is visible to all, and includes the entries you make on your Profile page, including your Display Name (which can be a nickname or your real name), an image to represent you on the forum, a tag line for the image, the address of your own Website or blog, and a signature line for your posts. We also include the date you joined MV.
Until recently you also had the ability to store in your profile your gender, location, time zone, date of birth and instant messaging service (think ICQ) identities. I've now removed these fields from all 617 user files, and reset all users' e-mail visibilities to 'hidden'. This ensures that the optional data in your profile is essentially harmless to your privacy. You may add or delete items as you wish from your Profile page, and I know some members prefer to make their e-mail addresses visible, though this carries the risk of attracting spam.
User data is stored by MV for as long as the user remains a member, and no longer. We do not cancel memberships on the grounds of inactivity, only in the case of deliberate infringement of the User Agreement. Users may resign at any time via their Profile pages or by direct request to the Administrator, myself.
If you're happy with this, may I suggest you revisit your Profile page (via the Menu bar), to review and update the settings there. I note that some users have never changed their registration passwords to something they might find more memorable, or set a more friendly alias (or even better, their real names, with normal punctuation and capitalisation), and some of the e-mail addresses on file are with providers who no longer exist! If you need a reminder of your log-in details, drop me a line at <sjb(at)peteatkin(dot)com>.
Thanks to all for your continued support of Midnight Voices and Pete Atkin.
Stephen J Birkill
Administrator, 'Midnight Voices'
Webmaster, 'Smash Flops'